CDT day 121: and then I became one with everything

September 2
Mileage: 26
2,339 miles hiked

Even though I go to bed before ten, I somehow sleep until seven a.m. How is this happening? The sun’s been coming up later, and the mornings are cloudy and cold. It’s fall, and apparently my body has decided to switch off its summetime dawn alarm. Lazy days, here at the end of the trail.

I don’t know how to describe the trail today- it follows the ridge and ascends and descends in a gentle sort of way. Sometimes I’m in the pine forest and sometimes in damp green meadows. Yesterday when I was looking over my Ley maps I noticed a note for today’s section- Lots of rocks in this stretch of trail. But everyone else has hiked through it and so can you. I get to this “rocks” section partway through the morning and am pleasantly surprised to discover that, on the Colorado Trail, a section so bad it warrants a note in the maps is still nowhere near as bad as the massively shittastic tread of the CDT in Montana/Idaho. I remember the most washed-out jeep roads, going straight up or straight down the mountain, so full of rocks there was nowhere to put my feet and so steep I’d actually fall on my ass on the way down. And then the jeep road would end or veer off in the wrong direction and one would simply make one’s way over whatever sort of open terrain presented itself- usually lumpy meadow full of gopher holes that constantly rolled one’s ankles.

So this nice tread with some rocks in it is still a dream. The Colorado Trail dream!

Since I’m on the ridge water sources are scarce today and I have to actually pay attention to where the water is. I’m eating lunch at one source when a trio of bike-packers arrive, pushing their fat tire bikes laboriously up the trail. They drop their bikes at the water, beat, and proceed to make some sandwiches.

“Are you guys biking the Colorado Trail?” I say to one of them.

“Yeah,” she says. “We bike about 25 miles a day.”

“That’s the mileage I do too!” I say. The woman stares at me, surprised and a little annoyed. She says that they mostly have to walk their bikes, on account of the stuff in the trail. They’re wearing those plastic bike shoes that clip into the pedals, and their feet hurt.

“We’re doing fifteen more miles today,” says the woman. “A big day for us.”

“That’s where I’m going!” I say. “It’s the last water for a while.” The woman looks annoyed again.

In the afternoon clouds roll in and it begins to rain- the rain is a little cold, but not scary-cold. The rain falls on and off for a few hours and I plod along, listening to the music I’ve grown very tired of and stepping happily around the rocks. I’ve been hiking solo since Frisco, and I think I’m finally, for the first time in my life, beginning to actually enjoy it. One of my goals in doing the CDT was to get over my fear of hiking solo, and I thought I’d be forced to do so much sooner. I love hiking with friends- LOVE it- but I don’t want my happiness on trail to be dependant on them. Being dependant on others on the trail leads to all sorts of anxiety, for all sorts of different reasons. Since Frisco I’ve been a day ahead of Track Meat and Spark, and I’ve accepted this distance as a final sort of challenge to myself- can I actually learn to enjoy hiking solo? And it turns out that I can. Camping alone every night, seeing no-one each day but the occasional day-hiker. And you know what? I’m fine. I’ve even been going a little feral- zoning out to the absolute silence of the forest, talking to the chipmunks and martens and porcupines and ptarmagins that run across the trail. All the forest creatures are extra cute right now, as they plump up for the winter. Hello chipmunk friend, I say, as I am scolded from a tree branch. Hello grouse.

Four miles before camp I pass the bike-packers, pitching their tents in the cold drizzle. There’s no water but it’s raining and they have nice tents in which to hunker down. I get it.

Camp is at the intersection of two jeep roads. The stream is nearly dry but I find a trickle and manage to fill my bottles with the leaf method. A cold wind blows and the coyotes start to howl as I eat my dinner. The moon has gone away somewhere.

Photos on instagram